Most Canadians are worried about climate change and believe it is caused by humans, but the regional differences in how people responded to that question show the political battles over the environment are still going strong, a new poll suggests.

An online survey conducted by Leger Marketing and the Association of Canadian Studies for The Canadian Press over the Thanksgiving weekend suggests 70 per cent of Canadians are worried or very worried about climate change.

That includes 28 per cent who said they were very worried. Less than 10 per cent of those surveyed said they weren't worried about it all.

More than 1,500 people responded to the survey but it cannot be assigned a margin of error because online polls are not considered truly random samples.

The survey suggested 68 per cent of Canadians believe climate change is caused by human activity, while 21 per cent of respondents said climate change is just part of a natural cycle and is not caused by humans.

A study published last year by Cornell University researchers concluded 99.9 per cent of more than 88,000 peer-reviewed scientific papers on climate change published between 2012 and 2020 agreed that global warming is caused by humans, largely by the burning of fossil fuels.

Concern about climate change was highest in provinces hit hardest by extreme weather in the last two years, including Atlantic Canada, which is still recovering from post-tropical storm Fiona, and British Columbia, where rebuilding is ongoing after major fires and floods in 2021.

The belief that climate change is nothing or little to worry about, and that it's not caused by humans, was highest in provinces that have fought hardest against the federal government's climate plan and the national carbon price.

In Alberta, only half of those surveyed said climate change is caused by people, and 33 per cent said they believe it is just cyclic. In Manitoba and Saskatchewan, 61 per cent said climate change is caused by humans and 24 per cent said it is not.

#ClimateChange fears high across #Canada but vary by region, new poll suggests. #CarbonPrice

The survey comes as millions of Canadians in those three provinces and Ontario are set to receive the next quarterly Climate Action Incentive payment, more commonly known as the carbon price rebate.

That's because those are the only four provinces that didn't implement a policy on carbon pricing that met the federal standard.

Christian Bourque, executive vice-president of Leger, said it's likely not a coincidence that climate change skepticism is higher in places where governments are more skeptical about how to manage it.

"There is a general consensus surrounding sort of the concern over climate change, the fact that it's caused by human activity, but at the same time because of political lines drawn between Ottawa and the provinces, moving forward at the pace some people want will be difficult," said Bourque.

Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario all unsuccessfully fought the federal government in the Supreme Court over the imposition of the carbon price.

The carbon price is designed to make people pay more when they buy fossil fuels, and is embedded in the prices of household goods and food that cost more to produce because of a carbon price paid by industry.

The government maintains that the rebates, based on an analysis of what the carbon price will cost an average family, means people are not worse off financially and can still save more if they cut back on fossil fuel purchases.

"Canada's price on pollution ensures that big polluters pay their fair share, while making life more affordable for you," said Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault this week.

But the political battle over carbon pricing is still a major source of debate in Ottawa and with the provinces. Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre made "axe the tax" a big part of his leadership campaign, and has his caucus hammering away at it every day in the House of Commons.

The carbon price, charged based on the greenhouse gas emissions produced when a particular fuel is burned, began at $20 a tonne in 2019 and was increased by $10 each April. Starting next year that increase will go to $15 a year until 2030, so the price will go from $50 a tonne now, to $170 in 2030.

The Conservatives are demanding the government stop plans to "triple" the carbon price at a time when inflation is high and families are already feeling the pinch.

Tory MPs used the word "triple" 178 times in question period last week alone.

The Liberals say the Conservatives are misleading Canadians, making it sound like the carbon price is tripling overnight when it is a slow increase that gradually increases the pressure while providing time for behavioural change. The Liberals also say the Conservatives refuse to acknowledge that the rebates even exist.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 13, 2022.

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